By Vincent L. Hall
The prophet does not ask if the vision can be implemented, for questions of implementation are of no consequence until the vision can be imagined. The imagination must come before the implementation. Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and to imagine almost nothing. —Walter Brueggemann
Walter Brueggemann is a celebrated Old Testament scholar and theologian known by seminarians as a Master teacher. He exegetes and elucidates scripture in a way that brings “social justice” ministers to their feet.
My friend, Pastor Damien Durr, speaks of him often. I never want to plagiarize, but Durr is always on point. They say it’s ok to be a copycat as long as you are copying the right cat. So yeah, I kinda stole this line of thought.
Brueggemann promotes the notion that we ought to pray for imagination. Black Baptists religiously pray for a “reasonable portion of health and strength,” but we also need to ask God to grant us healthy imaginations. Lord, give us new dreams!
As I watched Joseph Robinette Biden Jr.’s inauguration, I could not help but believe that the near octogenarian is still imagining.
After four years of malaise and melancholy brought on by a two-bit, toy-gun wielding wannabe gangster we know as Donald Trump, America, and the world needs to heed Brueggermann’s prescriptive. We need imagination.
We need to imagine a future of freedom and good fortunes that all humankind has a reasonable opportunity to achieve.
James Brown said it best. “I don’t want nobody giving me nothing, open up the door, and I’ll get it myself.” Good God!
Let us imagine creating opportunities for the poor and marginalized. The unspoken “caste system” that exists in every nation must be confronted. We don’t have a trade imbalance with all of China, just the rich bastards who control 90 percent of their wealth. They trade with America’s rich bastards who have no empathy for the lesser-thans.
If empathy were a commodity, Biden would be worth billions of dollars. Biden doesn’t exude that syrupy sorrowfulness that has known no pain or strife.
He has survived more major calamities than most could imagine or endure. Empathy ought to invoke vision and imagination.
Biden stuttered and stammered as a child. He was the object of constant ridicule by his classmates and at least one nun. Stuttering is no great plague today.
In his generation, it was a sign of low intelligence. Biden kept imagining straight through law school.
Biden’s first-born daughter, Naomi, died in 1972, after a fatal car accident that also took his young bride. Biden became one of the most celebrated single parents in America.
His son, Beau, died in 2015 after suffering from brain cancer in a very public way. Biden used his imagination to expedite the cure for cancer.
Biden ran twice for President and lost badly. Joe imagined that if he helped a young Black dude from Chicago, he could get closer to his own vision. He imagined becoming wingman to America’s first Black President, and vision became reality.
Biden was politically DOA early on in the 2020 election. He had to answer charges surrounding his support of the 1994 Crime Bill. Although that legislation had lots of support from the Black community, he became the latest culprit.
The bill was horrible, but so were the district attorneys, judges, and the prison system. The clear majority of Blacks and minorities who refused jury service were also to blame.
And oh yeah, some of the criminals that went to jail really were criminals.
In every case, a sitting judge had the last word and built reputations and long-lasting careers by being “tough on crime.”
Biden felt the full backlash for a “criminal injustice system” for which all of America was complicit. He kept imagining.
If Brueggemann is right, then Biden’s biding imagination is what we need. The question is whether our culture, rife and replete with opinionated arrogance, unrelenting judgment, and unforgiving condemnations, can concoct a vision of justice for America and the world.
Pray for imagination!
Vincent L. Hall is an author, activist, and an award-winning columnist.